BL&T No. 042: Managing Life's Curveballs

Borrowed, Learned, & Thought (or BL&T) is a weekly newsletter sent on Mondays. In every edition, I share a borrowed idea (quote, excerpt), a lesson learned from the previous week, and a thought starter heading into the new week. Learn more and subscribe here.

Borrowed

"Your life is not something that someone gives you, but something you choose yourself, and you are the one who decides how you live."

From "The Courage to Be Disliked" by Ichiro Kishimi, Fumitake Koga [Book]

Learned

From someone hitting my parked car and leaving me with remnants of the bumper placed on the trunk to projects not shaking out as planned, life has thrown me a few extra curveballs lately.

In baseball, the purpose of a curveball is to catch the batter off guard. In life, they work the same way. As a curveball is flying toward the batter, they might mistake it for a fastball, swinging too early and miss, or wait until it's closer, missing it anyway. Long story short, hitting a curveball is no easy task.

Besides my early days in little league and the occasional Phillies game with friends or family, I wouldn’t consider myself a baseball fan. Interestingly enough, my best friend, Kyle, is a baseball connoisseur. Even after 20-odd years of friendship, his love for the sport hasn't rubbed off on me.

Anyway, with the last few weeks feeling like a rollercoaster ride, this idea of curveballs has been on the brain. Is there an art to hitting them? Is there some secret tactic that might apply to life? I turned to Google to find out.

Immediately, I was sucked in by tutorials and videos focused on technique. Self-proclaimed baseball experts acting as if hitting a curveball was scientific, meaning if you did X, Y would happen.

After escaping the YouTube rabbit hole, I started browsing articles and noticed a trend. Of course, swinging at a curveball requires technique and skill, but according to Dave Hudgens of Hitting World, "the first key to mastering the curveball is for you to learn how to prepare for it. You need to have a definite battle plan, your personal curveball strategy."

Your personal curveball strategy is not only identifying when a curveball may be coming but knowing what to do if it does. I liked where this was going. It seemed plausible that after learning the fundamentals, a player would develop their unique way of handling curveballs.

I continued my search and stumbled upon Baseball Positive, a blog created by a baseball enthusiast named Mark Linden, who got a taste of semi-pro ball as a young adult and later gave up his day job to coach kids in the sport. His advice on the curveball? Like Dave, Coach Mark honed in on the importance of recognizing a curveball. In his words, "success in hitting a curve starts with seeing the spin of the pitch." He concluded, "let the good ones go, and swing at the bad ones."

Coach Mark's advice hit home. When it comes to curveballs, there is no formula to guarantee a successful hit. It's not as simple as haphazardly swinging, either. I don't see life's curveballs as good or bad, but to keep with the metaphor, the "good" ones are the trivial things that come out of nowhere and steal our attention. Swinging at these is not worth the energy. We may get more than three swings, but maybe it's helpful to pretend that we don't. We only get so much energy to give after all. It is in our best interest to use it wisely.

As I steeped myself in baseball and curveballs, I reflected on the last few weeks and realized that my personal curveball strategy needed some work. At times, I was swinging at every twist and turn life threw me. I let myself grow tired and stressed by taking swings at curveballs that wouldn't matter in the long run. Thanks to Coach Mark, it's clear that I need to take more time identifying life's curveballs before taking steps to manage them.

Lesson? Curveballs in life are inevitable, but they're not all worth the swing. Choose wisely.

Thought Starter

Which of life's curveballs do I need to let go?